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Film Review: The Babadook

Image © Causeway Films 

Image © Causeway Films 

It's December, and I had almost given up on a good 2014 horror film.  Thank goodness for Australia.  Also, thank goodness for VOD because you’re likely not going to findThe Babadook in your local theater.

Released in cinemas on November 28th in a very limited fashion, it fortunately was also available to rent at the same time.  Figuring $7.99 was still cheaper than what I’d pay for a day at the movies, I now have access to nightmare fuel for 13 more days.

The first thing you need to know about The Babadook is that it is a deliciously slow boil of a horror film.  Amelia (Essie Davis) is a single mother who lost her husband on the day of her son’s birth and has never quite gotten over it.  Her son, six year-old Samuel (Noah Wiseman), is a very maladjusted kid who suffers from night terrors and a very overactive imagination.  I don’t have to really talk about anyone else because this film is about mother and son.  Sure, there are other people in it but they’re only there to push along the plot.

When I say Samuel is maladjusted, I mean he is just a terrible, terrible child.  He’s loud and obnoxious to the point that he’s always at risk of being kicked out of school.  He’s destructive and doesn’t seem to care about those around him.  On top of that, the moment night falls he has panic attacks, screaming and crying about invisible monsters until finally passing out from exhaustion in mom’s bed.

He’s such a problem child that Amelia hardly sleeps, moving zombie-like through her workday and barely keeping it together at home.  Honestly, Samuel is played a bit too well as a terrible child.  Within 20 minutes I wanted to reach into the screen and slap the silence into his character.


Every good nightmare should start with an innocent looking book. (Image © Causeway Films)

Fortunately (for the viewer) the tumultuous life of Amelia and Samuel allows the Babadook to invade their lives.  It first appears in a mysterious book but soon Samuel is claiming he can talk to and see the creature.  When Amelia calls him out on it, he claims that she’ll see him soon but that it wants to scare her first….and scare it does.

After a moderately slow 30 minutes, the final hour of this 94 minute movie becomes increasingly horrific.  The Babadook can follow the family anywhere and neither can guess when or where it will appear.  It doesn’t speak except to say ‘ba-ba-ba-badooooooook’ and never lets on what it wants.

This is the sort of horror movie that should be seen alone with the lights off.  It is genuinely frightening and is yet more proof that a big budget does not make a good movie.  There’s barely any special effects and as I said before there are maybe twenty other people dotted throughout.

If, like myself, you had given up hope that this year would produce a single scary movie worth getting excited about, you can rest easy.  The Babadook is here to make sure you don’t sleep soundly tonight.